iSchool Careers: Speed Interviewing

When Stefanie Roberts froze up on the first question of the Speed Interviewing event in February, the irony wasn't lost on her.

The question? "What makes you an effective communicator, and what can you do to improve your communication?"

Roberts, who started at the iSchool in January, recovered, gave her answer and, more importantly, received constructive feedback. Then, feeling more poised, she moved on to another table where a different interviewer threw another question at her. Within an hour, she had fielded 12 questions from 12 different people.

Speed Interviewing, which Director of Career Development Tara Iagulli introduced to the iSchool three years ago, is meant to challenge the students, to reveal their strengths and weaknesses and polish their verbal communication skills as they prepare for the job search.

It's also a chance to network with professionals in their field and gather valuable feedback on how to present themselves to potential employers.

That's why Iagulli makes sure to involve iSchool alumni who can help students "brand themselves a little bit better."

The last event--held in February--drew 35 professionals and 35 students and was set up in a fast round robin format with students spending about five minutes with an interviewer before moving on to the next table. Iagulli distributed a list of possible interview questions to students beforehand.

"It's supposed to be a low-pressure environment," she said, adding, "Of course, the students feel some pressure."

Students who fielded Question #8 may have felt even more pressure: "What are the first three things you would consider when developing an information management policy for an organization?"

That question, posed by Daniel Alonzo, digital archivist with the Texas General Land Office, caused a few to stumble.

But the fact that Alonzo could immediately show them how to improve their responses made this experience unique, he said.

In a real world situation, job candidates sit for an interview, put on their best face and hope they give the answers employers are looking for. When they don't get a job, they rarely found out what went wrong or what they could have done differently.

"Nobody gets back to you and says you could have done better," Alonzo said.

For Emily Bulger, an iSchool student graduating in May, that feedback was crucial.

"I so appreciated the time that busy professionals were willing to give in order to get us all ready to enter into the upcoming interview settings with renewed confidence," she said.

The Speed Interviewing event, now in its third year at the iSchool, seems to work better than a traditional career fair, Iagulli said. Students have taken advantage of the networking aspect with some landing internships or an actual job offer.

Roberts, who got a lead on an internship from the Speed Interviewing event, is grateful to have so many career development opportunities at the iSchool. It's especially helpful, she said, for new students to feel "that we can dive right in with this stuff and not feel intimidated."

She added, "The career services at the iSchool are just so incredible. To not take advantage of the opportunities they offer is just silly."

April 1, 2014